Do you know what EPS means? What is DRL? And what’s the difference between RWD and FWD? We’ve put together a handy glossary with all the car acronym and abbreviations explained.

Table of Contents

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

18AW

18-inch Allow Wheels.

AA

Automobile Association

ABS

An Anti-lock braking system that prevents the wheels from locking in an emergency braking situation.

AC

Air conditioning

ACC

Adaptive Cruise Control. It’s the bit of car tech that keeps your car automatically at a predetermined distance from the car in front.

It could also stand for Accessory, the first position of your ignition key that powers up non-essentials like the radio and internal lights.

ACC can also mean Automatic Climate Control.

AEB

Autonomous emergency braking. It’s another car safety measure that detects objects in front of the car and applies the brakes automatically if it suspects an imminent collision.

Alternator

Converts energy from the engine into the electrical current that powers the vehicle’s electrical systems.

AMG

‘Aufrecht Welcher Großaspach’. Mercedes’ badge for their high performance vehicles. The three-letter acronym contains the name of two of its founders: Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, plus Aufrecht’s birthplace of Großaspach in Berlin.

Appreciation

When a vehicle’s value increases over time.

APV

All-Purpose Vehicle for Suzuki vehicles.

A/T

Automatic transmission. It’s what allows automatic gearboxes to shift automatically.

Aux

Auxiliary. It usually refers to an auxiliary audio connection like an input jack to connect phones and music players to the car’s audio system.

AWD / 4WD

All-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive / 4×4. Some car manufacturers have their own names for their AWD systems:

AWW

Automatic Windscreen Wipers

B

BHP

Brake horsepower. It’s the standard measure of the power that an engine puts out and it affects top speed and acceleration.

BIK

Benefit-in-kind. Basically, it’s another way of calling company car tax, which is paid by business people who use a company car for private use.

BMW

‘Bayerische Motoren Werke’, which means ‘Bavarian Motor Works’.

BPHEV

Battery Powered Hybrid Electric Vehicle.

C

CC

Cruise Control or Climate Control. CC can also be used to refer to cubic capacity – the size of the engine, measured in cubic centimetres or litres in the UK.

CEL

Check engine light. It’s a warning light on the dash that lets you know there is an issue with the engine that should be checked out as soon as possible.

C/L

Central locking

CNG

Compressed natural gas. It’s an alternative fuel to petrol or diesel and it requires an engine conversion to use.

CO

Carbon monoxide. It’s a harmful engine exhaust emission.

CO2

Carbon dioxide. It’s one of the main gasses that vehicles emit and one of the main causes of global warming. It’s usually measured in grams per kilometre.

Coupe

A two-door car with a fixed roof and a sportier look. Check out our body style guide to learn more.

Crossover

A type of SUV that is built with unibody frame construction and usually based on a platform shared with a passenger car, and not a pickup truck. They tend to be smaller than regular SUVs and don’t usually have 4WD.

Cruise Control

An automated system that keeps the car at a constant speed set by the driver.

CVT

Continuously Variable Transmission. It’s a type of automatic gearbox that has one gear ratio that varies automatically, instead of several fixed ones.

D

DAB

Digital Audio Broadcasting. It’s also called Digital Radio and it’s a modern alternative to traditional analogue AM and FM car radio.

Dampers

Suspension components that help to reduce the impact of the car rising and falling as it travels.

Depreciation

The proportion of a vehicle’s purchase price that is lost over time.

Diesel

Depending on the carmaker, Diesel engine cars are called differently:

DFI/DGI

Direct Fuel Injection / Direct Gasoline Injection

DNA

Only applicable to Alfa Romeo cars, they use this to mean Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather. It refers to adjustable driving modes.

DOHC

Double (or Dual) Overhead Cam. It’s an engine type that has a separate camshaft each for the intake and exhaust valves

DPF

Diesel Particulate Filter. It’s a device in a diesel car’s exhaust that traps polluting particulates and burns them off at high temperature. It can get clogged without regular high-speed driving.

DRL

Daytime running lights or Driving Lights. The front lights that operate when the engine is on.

DS

Different Spirit / Distinctive Series in Citroen’s luxury spin-off, DS Automobiles.

DSG

Direct-shift gearbox for most brands except Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and SEAT, where it stands for Dual-Clutch gearbox. It’s a type of clutch that allows automatic operation or manual override.

Dual Fuel

A car that will run on more than one fuel. Usually LPG/petrol or electric/petrol.

DVSA

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. It’s the government body responsible for MoT tests, driving tests, licenses and that sort of stuff.

E

EBC

Electronic brake control

EBD

Electronic Brake Force Distribution. It varies the amount of braking force applied to each of a vehicle’s wheels to maximise stopping power. It’s always coupled with ABS in a vehicle.

ECU

Electronic Control Unit or Engine Control Unit. It takes readings from a variety of sensors within the engine and adjusts air-fuel mixture, ignition timing and idle speed to ensure optimum running

EDM

Electric Door Mirrors

EFM

Electric Folding Mirrors

EFS

Electric Front Seats

EFW

Electric Front Windows.

EGR

Exhaust Gas Recirculation. This system re-uses gases from the car’s exhaust to dilute the air that comes into the engine. And by doing that reduces harmful emissions.

EMS

Engine Management System

EPS

Electric Power Steering. It’s a more modern and efficient power-assist system than the hydraulic systems that old cars use.

E-REV

Extended-Range Electric Vehicle. It’s a vehicle that users an electric motor for propulsion but also uses an internal combustion engine to generate electrical power and maintain a minimum level of charge in the battery when it gets slow.

ERW

Electric Rear Windows.

ESC

Electronic Stability Control. It applies the brakes automatically when it detects a loss of traction to prevent a skid. Some brands call it ESP (Electronic Stability Program).

ESR

Electric Sunroof.

Estate car

A car with an extended boot space behind the rear seats that can be accessed by a door at the back. Find more in our car body style guide.

EV

Electric Vehicle. It’s a type of vehicle powered by an electric motor.

F

FCV

Fuel Cell Vehicle. A type of car that uses a fuel cell to run off hydrogen – like the Hyundai ix35 and the Toyota Mirai.

FDSH

Full Dealer Service History.

FIAT

The carmaker’s name ‘Fiat’ is four letters that create the single phrase ‘Fabrica Italiana Automobili Torino’, which means ‘Italian Automobile Factory, Turin’.

FSH

Full Service History. It’s the record of completed services that a used car has had during its lifetime.

Fuel Injection

A system by which fuel is sprayed directly into the combustion chamber of each cylinder of the engine.

FWD

Front-wheel drive

G

Gap Insurance

A type of cover you can buy to protect you when you buy a new car. It’s designed to cover the difference between the amount your car insurer would pay out if your car was stolen or written off, and the price you paid for your car.

GPS

Global Positioning System. It’s the standard system for in-car navigation.

GT

Grand Tourer. It’s usually a high-performance or luxury vehicle designed for long-distance driving in comfort.

GTI

Grand Touring Injection. Used for high-performance cars in the Volkswagen and Peugeot ranges.

GVW

Gross Vehicle Weight. It refers to the weight of the entire vehicle -including passengers and luggage – and is usually given in kilograms in the UK.

H

Hatchback

A car with a boot lid that incorporates the rear window. Read more on our car Bodystyle guide.

HFS

Heated Front Seats

HSD

Hybrid Synergy Drive. It’s the name that Toyota gives to its hybrid technology.

HP

Hire Purchase. It’s a way of financing a new or used car. Usually, you’ll need an initial deposit and then fixed monthly payments that cover the rest of the balance.

HPI

Hire Purchase Inspection. It’s an organisation that checks the history of a used car and gives information like write-offs, mileage or any issues with the registration or VIN Number.

HVAC

Heater-Vent-Air Conditioning. It refers to the heating and ventilation controls in the car, manual or automatic.

Hybrid

A vehicle that is powered by both a petrol engine and battery-powered electric motors.

I

I4 / I3 / I6

I4 stands for In-line four-cylinder engine. I3 for In-line three-cylinder engine. I6 means In-line six-cylinder engine. It’s a common type of engine used in most mid-sized modern cars.

ICE

Internal Combustion Engine. It can be a petrol or Diesel engine.

ICE sometimes also stands for In-Car Entertainment, which is any radio, music or video player fitted to the car.

IMA

Integrated Motor Assist. It’s Honda’s hybrid vehicle technology.

ISOFIX

Standard of anchoring system for child seats in cars which permits a compliant seat to be fixed to anchor points on the car rather than secured only by the seatbelt. Read our Isofix guide to learn more.

J

JCW

John Cooper Works. It’s the name of a British carmaker now owned by BMW that is used to create the fastest MINIs on the road.

K

Kph

Kilometres per hour.

L

LCD

Liquid Crystal Diode. A technology used in the making of most car display screens.

LCV

Light Commercial Vehicle. It’s used to refer to vans and trucks that weigh under 3.500kg / 3.8 tons.

LDAS

Lane Departure Avoidance System. It’s a safety measure that prevents you from drifting out of your lane. It’s usually a warning light and buzzer, although sometimes it takes control of the steering.

LED

Light Emitting Diode. Lots of modern cars have LED lights. It’s essentially a lighting technology that provides better light and a superior lifespan than traditional halogen and filament bulbs.

LEV

Low Emissions Vehicle

LGV

Large Goods Vehicle. A car that weighs over 3.500kg / 3.8 tons.

List Price

It refers to the cost of the car as it is driven off the dealership forecourt. Also known as the ‘on the road’ price.

LPG

Liquified petroleum gas. Also called autogas. It’s an alternative fuel that requires an engine conversion if you want to use it.

LSD

Limited Slip Differential. It prevents excessive power from going to one of the driven wheels to avoid pointless wheelspin.

LWB

Long WheelBase. It’s a version of a car with a longer wheelbase. Usually more common in luxury models.

M

Marque

A vehicle’s make or brand.

Mpg

Miles per gallon. It’s the standard of fuel consumption in the UK. The number of miles a vehicle can travel per gallon of fuel.

Mph

Miles per hour. The number of miles a vehicle can travel at a constant speed in one hour.

MPV

Multi-purpose-vehicle. They are also called people carriers.

MY

Model Year. Used to describe when a car was produced.

N

NA

Naturally Aspirated. It’s an engine that does not employ turbocharging or supercharging.

NEDC

New European Driving Cycle. It’s the official EU testing procedure for emissions and fuel economy.

NOx

Nitrogen Oxide. It’s a harmful gas emitted from vehicle exhausts.

NVH

Noise, vibration and harshness.

O

OBD

On-Board Diagnostics. It’s in its second generation now – OBD II – and it’s a way of connecting to the car’s internal computer to check data about the vehicle.

OD

Overdrive. It’s quite rare in modern cars but still can be found on old four and three-speed gearboxes.

ODO

Odometer. It’s the device that measures the car’s mileage.

OEM

Original Equipment Manufacturer. It’s your car’s kit that comes directly from the manufacturer.

OTR

On The Road. It’s the price of a new or used car with all extra fees included – delivery, road tax, registration. It can also be called ‘list price’.

P

Park / Park aid

A system of sensors fitted in the car’s bumpers that signal when you are nearing an object.

PAS

Power-assisted steering. It’s fitted to nearly every new car on sale today.

PASM

Porsche Active Suspension Management. It’s the name that Porsche gives to its electronically adjustable dampers.

PCP

Personal Contract Purchase. A way of financing a new or used car where you pay an initial deposit, fixed payments and then an optional final payment if you want to keep the vehicle.

PDK

Porsche Doppelkupplung. Porsche’s dual-clutch gearbox.

PS

Stands for ‘PferdStarke’, which in German means ‘horse strength’. It’s an alternative to BHP and can also be called ‘European horsepower’. You can convert PS to BHP by using an online converter or you can just multiply the PS number by 0.986.

Petrol

Like diesel, different manufacturers call their petrol engines in various ways. Here you can see them all.

  • Abarth – T-Jet
  • Alfa Romeo – MultiAir, TwinAir
  • Alpina – B (Alpina B, Alpina B5)
  • Audi – TFSI, FSI
  • BMW – i (BMW 30i, BMW 540i)
  • Citroen – VTi, PureTech
  • Dacia – TCe, SCe
  • DS – PureTech
  • Fiat – MultiAir, TwinAir
  • Ford – EcoBoost
  • Honda – i-VTEC
  • Hyundai – GDi
  • Infiniti – T (Infiniti Q30 1.6T)
  • Lexus – t (Lexus IS200t)
  • Mazda – SKYACTIV-G
  • Nissan – DIG-S, DIG-T
  • Peugeot – e-VTi, PureTech
  • Renault – TCe, SCe
  • SEAT – MPI, TSI, TFSI
  • Skoda – MPI, TSI, TFSI
  • Toyota – VVT-i
  • Vauxhall – VVT
  • Volkswagen – MPI, TSI, TFSI, FSI

PHEV

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. A type of Hybrid vehicle that gives a better range in electric power. It can be plugged into an electrical supply and charged.

Power Steering

Steering aided by electric or hydraulic motors, reducing the amount of effort a driver needs to use to turn the car’s wheels.

Q

R

R

Racing. Used in Volkswagen sportier models.

Range

In an electric vehicle (EV), this is how far you can travel on pure electric energy before the battery needs charging.

RCL

Remote Central Locking

RDS

Radio Data System. It’s the system that allows your car’s infotainment screen to display small amounts of information in FM radio broadcasts. It tells you which radio station you’re listening to, but also the name of the show, the song or the artist.

RPM

Revolutions per minute. It’s used to measure how quickly the engine rotates.

RS

Audi’s high-performance sub-brand. It also stands for Renault Sport, Renault’s high-performance brand. And it can also stand for Rally Sport or Rallye Sport in some other models.

RWD

Rear-wheel drive.

S

Saloon

A car with three sections: engine up front, middle part for passengers and the boot at the back. Can have three or five doors. Read more on our car Bodystyle guide.

Sat Nav

Satellite Navigation

SAV

Sports Activity Vehicle. It’s how BMW calls its off-roading SUVs.

sDrive

It’s how BMW calls Two-wheel drive.

Segment

Types of cars are divided into groups according to vehicle regulations or market segments. It’s different from body styles in the sense that governments and private organisations have developed these and use them for regulation, description and categorisation.

In Europe, these are the car segments:

  • A – City cars
  • B – Superminis
  • C – Small family cars
  • D – Large family / Compact executive cars
  • E – Executive cars
  • F – Luxury cars
  • S – Sportscars / Supercars / Grand Tourers
  • M – MPVs / People Carriers
  • J – SUVs & 4X4s

SORN

Statutory off-road notification. It’s a free alternative to road tax or VED for cars that don’t go onto public roads like track cars of project vehicles.

Space Saver

A thinner than usual spare tyre

SRS

Supplement Restraint System. It’s the proper name for an airbag system.

ST

Ford’s high-performance sub-brand.

Suspension

The springs, wishbones, dampers and links that attach a vehicle to its wheels.

SUV

Sports Utility Vehicle. To sum it up, a car with a high driving position that looks like an off-roader but may not have 4WD.

SVO

Special Vehicle Operations. It’s Jaguar and Land Rover’s speciality department. Here they tune up and customise the brand’s products.

SVR

Special Vehicle Racing. Jaguar added it in 2016 to its F-Type sports cars.

T

T

Turbocharged / Transverse. It’s how Ferrari calls its turbocharged models.

TCS

Traction Control System. It cuts engine power or applies the brakes when it detects a wheel slipping to help control and grip.

TDI

Turbocharged Direct Injection.

Tip or Tiptronic

A Tiptronic transmission is an automatic gearbox with the ability to change gears manually. It allows you greater control of when you change gears.

TPMS

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System. Checks the inflation levels of your tyres. It’s a level requirement if you’re using run-flat tyres.

TSI

Turbocharged Stratified Injection

U

ULEV

Ultra-low emissions vehicle. It’s usually an electric or hybrid car with emissions under 75g/km of CO2.

V

VED

Vehicle Excise Duty. It’s another name for Road Tax. Essentially a yearly fee that you must pay before you can drive your car on the road. The price is based on how many carbon emissions your car produces – or in the case of older cars, engine size.

VIN

Vehicle Identification Number. It’s also called a chassis number. It’s the identifying number you use when you’re checking a car’s history. It can be found on the chassis and at the base of the windscreen – among other places.

VTEC

Variable Valve Timing Electronic Control. It’s a Honda system that uses two camshaft profiles to give the car different modes for performance and economy.

vRS

Skoda’s high-performance sub-brand.

VXR

Vauxhall’s high-performance sub-brand.

W

X

xDrive

How BMW refers to All-Wheel Drive.

Y

Z

ZEV

Zero Emission Vehicle

ZF

ZF is a German manufacturer of car parts. Particularly known for its torque converter automatic gearboxes.

We’ve covered plenty of information in this glossary but if you still need more advice for buying your next used car, then click on our Advice section and you’ll find everything you should know. It’s packed with useful guides and content for all your needs.